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A Good Old-Fashioned Future Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Good Old-fashioned Future is a paperback collection of seven short stories by former cyberpunk guru turned sociocultural prognosticator Bruce Sterling. Most of the works here come with impressive pedigrees, ranging from a Hugo Award for "Bicycle Repairman" to Hugo nominations for "Maneki Neko" and "Taklamakan." Another piece, "Big Jelly," was cowritten by Sterling's fellow cyberpunk alum, Rudy Rucker.

These stories have a lot in common. They all take place in the near future, and most are action-oriented, involving colorful characters such as secret agents, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Mafioso's, and revolutionaries. But they are also personal tales that tend to focus on individuals rather than ideas, which makes them hit home more often than standard SF fare. The best of the bunch is probably "Taklamakan," a high-concept piece about two freelance spies sent to a central Asian desert called Taklamakan, where the Asian Sphere is doing some sort of secret research into space flight. "Bicycle Repairman" is set in the same world, but instead of in an Asian desert it takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the spies in this story aren't the good guys. It's a less successful piece than "Taklamakan" but also a good read.

Not all of the stories in this collection have the edgy, this-is-what-tomorrow-will-be-like quality that typifies Sterling's best work. But even when Sterling isn't at his best he's entertaining, and A Good Old-Fashioned Future is certainly that. --Craig E. Engler

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"Science fiction that makes the rest of near-future SF look toylike by comparison. It's as if Sterling is the only writer paying attention to what's happening in the real world."
Locus
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553576429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553576429
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,836,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stefan Jones on July 9, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Seven nice, fairly low-key stories set in near future worlds on the verge of becoming terribly strange . . . though not necessarily terrible. If there's a common theme here, it's that life will go on -- and may be a bit more fun -- if the corporate, social, and governmental status quo had some holes blown in it.
The best is "Maneki Neko," a genial story set in a Japan where the traditional gift economy has become fantastically enhanced. This one's up for a Hugo.
The weakest story is "The Littlest Jackal," another entry in the Siggy Starlitz sequence. Here the underground opportunist finds himself in the company of mercenaries trying to overthrow the local government and establish an off-shore banking haven. Not bad, but not up to the rest of the collection.
Strangest is a collaboration with Rudy Rucker about a Silicon Valley startup, synthetic jellyfish, and trouble in oil country.
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By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With one or two exceptions, "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" exhibits the best Sterling short fiction I've read so far...the concluding three, beginning with "Deep Eddy," form a sort of quasi-novel that shows Sterling doing what he does best: providing widescreen views of _believable_ near-futures, peopled by sympathetic characters who find themselves in predicaments of sometimes overpowering weirdness in a world already steeped in the Philosophy of the Ejector Seat.
Arguably the best of the stories here is "Big Jelly," a fevered collaboration with Rudy Rucker, whose motto sums up Sterling's shared vision nicely: "Seek Ye The Gnarl!"
This is a spendid, lingering collection, more coherent and immediately enjoyable than "Crystal Express" or "Globalhead."
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As I discussed in my review of "Distraction," Bruce Sterling is a puzzling writer. At his best -- his non-fiction work, "The Hacker Crackdown" -- he is a fabulous, witty, fascinating writer. But his fiction, particularly his novels (I refer here to "Islands in the Net," "Holy Fire" and "Distraction," plus "Heavy Weather," which I started but never finished), tends to fall short of his aim.
His short stories tend to fare better. They are less ambitious but also tighter, and hence less distracting. "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" represents his latest collection of stories; the earlier works are "Globalhead" and "Crystal Express," which contains one absolute knock-out story called "Swarm."
These stories are less experimental than "Globalhead" and more successful. Most of them are set in the near future and focus on collapsing societies. The last three are set in the same world and form a loose novella; Sterling seems to like this setting.
None of the stories in here drags unacceptably, and some are quite good. It may be that Sterling has settled down to writing clean readable stories, rather than trying to write "outside the box."
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Sterling's short works are not so short sometimes, and in this collection that \is true in spades. I bought it for the final story "Taklamakan" but wallowed in the others.

The stories here are not such a slog to read as in the earlier works, those he wrote in the eighties. More accessible too, having less dense metaphorical content for the most part while still retaining the message-subtext. Sterling writes with purpose (most times).

Reading the last century's writers ideas of how the hacker community would become mainstream is amusing of course from a historical perspective. The assumption that hackers would be athletic and need to get physical proximity to their targets is charming, but who would want to read about spotty teens slowly growing a prison pallor from hours in the basement in front of a screen?

However, many of the ideas presented in these pages will ring true in the years post-wiki.

I found the writing to be excellent, in direct contravention of the opinions of others reviewing here. I also had no problem with a futuristic Japan not being credible to a person familiar with today's Japan. That's what happens to cultures in SF.

Anyway. I like the stories in this one better than the earlier collected stuff Sterling has written, and Taklamakan was worth the cost.
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I just love Bruce Sterling. His writing rings true today as much as when the stories were written and will through the ages. I learned about him in college and have read a few of his things, but this was just really a treat.
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A Good Old-Fashioned Future, (...), is an anthology of seven stellar stories authored by Austin, Texas novelist and seer Bruce Sterling. These yarns were originally published in magazines -- such as Asimov's, Hayakawa's Science Fiction Magazine, Omni, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, -- that were sold between 1993 and 1998. And with the exception of one tale, they are all interlaced in some form or another, whether by scheme or character.

My favorite story in this collection is "Big Jelly," a collaboration Sterling hatched with his close friend Rudy Rucker of Freeware fame. "Big Jelly," is an anecdotal account of the unintended consequences that result from a second-chance meeting between Tug Mesoglea, a gay San Jose computer programmer, and Revel Pullen, a straight Texas oil billionaire that dabbles in venture capitalism on the side. While not the longest story in AGOFF, "Big Jelly" does seem to have the most going on, conceptually. Also note the glib sense of humor, as in the initials of the story, and the backward names, "gut" and "lever." Lever Pullen... hehe. Coincidentally this is the one story that has little in common with the others. The other stories seem to take place anywhere from 30 and 70 years from now. Based on the quality of this story, I'd love to see a whole novel from this pair. Would that be too much to ask for? After all, Bruce did collaborate once before on The Difference Engine with William Gibson. What do you say Bruce?

My second favorite parable in this group is "Deep Eddy," a forty-seven page recounting of Edward Dertouzas's pleasure trip from the metropolis of Chattanooga, Tennessee, into the dark heart of modern-day Dusseldorf, circa July 2035.
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